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The Sunshine Vitamin: Yo Mon Sheds Some Light on Vitamin D

We all know vitamin D is important to the body, but do you actually know what it does or the best ways to get it?  In the simplest terms, vitamin D is important to maintain normal levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood.  It helps the body absorb calcium, which in turn, helps to form and maintain strong bones.  It helps to increase bone mineral density and reduce fractures; and some research suggests that it gives some protection from osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cancer, obesity, inflammation, hormonal problems and a few autoimmune disorders.  Vitamin D is pretty important, and luckily, the best sources of vitamin D are things most of us actually like!

Your food sources for vitamin D are pretty tasty: fish, eggs, fortified milk, and cod liver oil (ok, cod liver oil may not be that much fun-sorry), but your best source of vitamin D is the sun (it’s also know as the “sunshine vitamin”)!  Yes!  This may be the best and most enjoyable way of getting a vitamin ever!  According to Becky Hand, licensed and registered dietician, “A person sitting outside in a bathing suit in New York City gets more vitamin D in 20 minutes than from drinking 200 glasses of milk. In fact, many experts suggest getting 10 minutes of unprotected sun on the arms and face or arms and legs, three times weekly and before applying sunscreen.”  Here’s the skinny on sunscreen:  UVB rays do not penetrate glass (so get outside!) or sunscreens with an SPF factor greater than 8.  So, spend a little unprotected time out in the sun—it doesn’t take long for your body to absorb enough UVB rays to start producing vitamin D.  Remember when you’re soaking up your vitamin D rays that you shouldn’t stay unprotected too long.  Give yourself 10 to 20 minutes and then slather on your sunscreen.

If you can’t get outside and enjoy the sun’s natural abundance, supplements work as well–but check the labels.  The best and most effective way to get vitamin D through a supplement is by taking one with cholecalciferol, or D3.  It’s much more easily absorbed by the body, but it can be a little harder to find and more expensive.  If you can’t get enough vitamin D through your diet and sunshine, though, it’s worth it.  And remember, vitamin D is fat soluble, so take it with a meal containing some fat to get the maximum bang for your buck.  On average, people ages 1 through 70 need 600 IU daily of vitamin D; people 71 and over need 800 IU daily.  Take a look at your diet and your sun exposure, talk to your doctor and figure out if a supplement is necessary for you.

It is possible to get too much of a good thing.  Since vitamin D is stored in fat, it sticks around in the body for a while and can build up to toxic levels if you go hog wild on your vitamin D intake.  Like anything else, it’s all about moderation—getting enough but not too much.

It’s sunshine season, mon!  Time to come out of your cave and feel the sun on your face!  Give yourself a break, relax, and take the benefits of your Yo Mon frozen yogurt a step further–fill da cup, take it outside, feed da soul, and let that sunshine vitamin make the most out of your day’s most delicious time-out!